Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Antithesis #4: You Are Not Called to the Ministry

“Ministry” is the work of service by which the life of the Kingdom breaks into peoples’ lives. It is the work of the Church, and properly belongs to the whole people of God. In our building of the Christian community and acts of hospitality and words of truth and prophecy that invite others into the Christ-life, we embody – incarnate and enflesh – the Reign of God and the healing reality of the Risen Christ to those outside the fellowship of the Church.

I as an individual am not meant to be equipped to do this. We, the Church, the little communities of the resurrection, outposts of God’s reign in a foreign land, are formed for this task as we are conformed to Jesus in the life we share together.

God has made us part of his larger story of saving the world. We share that ministry together, and we are all called to that ministry by virtue of our baptism: sealed by the Spirit and empowered with good gifts for healing and restoration. There are different kinds of ministries, indeed some people are called and gifted especially for hospitality, healing, teaching, apostleship, caretaking and all kinds of things – the Spirit offers whatever is needed in the work of the Kingdom.

When folks say “called to the ministry,” they usually mean, “called to the ministry of Word and Sacrament,” specifically the teaching of the scriptures and administering baptism and the Eucharist on behalf of the community. When Word and Sacrament become “the ministry” rather than “a ministry,” all other ministries undertaken by the people of God as groups and individuals are implicitly downplayed and degraded.

And that’s plainly evil. Quite frankly. Does this one really require any more explanation than that? It's not complicated.

Say it with me. “No one is called to the ministry. The People of God are called to the ministry of the Kingdom. Individuals are called to a plethora of specific ministries. Some people are called to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. It is not ‘better’ than the others. It is necessary, and so are all of the others. We are not meant to sit around ranking them like some overgrown adolescents trolling for an ego-stroking.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Anonymous said...

Thank you! I'm glad someone said it!

katie said...

Yeah I spent a few years in college irritated with everyone that felt they had to "accept a call to ministry" when they were already claiming to be a Christian. Finally I just decided to allow the redundancy, smile, and say "wow, cool."
Good distinction Kyle. It's possible I totally agree :)

Stephen Newell said...

I'm thankful you at least recognize that we're called to "specific" ministries. But I still don't quite agree with you.

You don't give any biblical basis for calling Word and Sacrament "the ministry" evil. It can be shown biblically that each of these specific ministries do just that--they proclaim the Gospel. But since you don't seem to have a shred of biblical evidence, I can't really give any Scripture to show you otherwise, since you seem predisposed to ignore this "dovey" commenting on your blog.

I just don't know what to think with this series. You claim to want to avoid cliches, but in doing so you destroy the biblical foundations of those "cliches" in favor of what is increasingly looking like nothing more than your personal interpretation of things. I'm honestly waiting for you to add a 5th one; namely "We are not to pray in Jesus' name."

On second thought, maybe I shouldn't have said that--it might actually show up here in a couple of days.

Kyle said...

Oooh, good idea!

Dude, what are you, twelve years old? Commenting on strangers' blogs for the sole purpose of being cranky...!

My thesis for this one is pretty simple, and I don't claim that I had to nitpick Scripture verses for it: the exultation of the ministry of particular persons as the most important service at all is sick and egomaniacal.

To go about saying that I'm called to the ministry (which necessarily implies that other people are called to something less is just plain pompous and arrogant.

And that seems so very obvious to me that I don't have any idea just how to go about arguing it. Kind of like, "the sky is blue," or something. Nope, just can't do it.

Stephen Newell said...

Now who's being a 12-year old? Please, brother. If it really bothers you to be challenged, why the heck do you even have a comments section? Don't be even more immature by labelling a dissenter immature. That's what too many idiots out there are doing.

Your thesis is very poorly constructed and has at best an even flimsier biblical foundation than the cliches you claim to be combatting. Is it really wrong of me to ask you to at least provide Scriptural reasons for your arguments? Is that too hard?

I know, having read your blog for some time, that it's really nothing to call you arrogant, but what I find arrogant is that you seem to think you have a better idea of what's biblical and godly than what people have historically affirmed, and that when called on this you get all in a snit.

If you really don't have any idea how to argue your position, why not just keep it to yourself until you actually do have an argument?

Kyle said...

Hm. Ad hominem, ad nauseum?

Would you argue, then, that people who are called to the ministry of word and sacrament, to the office of presbyter or overseer in the Church of God, can be said to be called to "the ministry"?

Or called to "a" ministry which is every bit as important to and part of the life of the Church and God's Kingdom initiative?

Should we be using language that affirms the dignity and necessity of all gifts and offices (in the spirit of 1 Cor. 12), or may we use language that exalts particular charisms and people over the rest of the people of God?

I honestly don't see any biblical warrant for talking about being "called to the ministry" rather than being "called to the ministry of word and sacrament" as well as various other ministries.

So I really don't see what the Bible's got to do with it.

naak said...

Kyle, I understand your argument on the behalf of them who do have ministries other then that of the proclamation of God's Word. Yet, the teaching of God's Word is the most esteemed position in the church. I do not wish to appear boastful since that is what I desire to do as I do fell God has called me to do it, yet it is the noble calling. (In my self-defense I do not wish to say that I, due to my calling, am nobler than others. It is simply the calling I have been given and it is not of myself; for God has gifted and equipped me for what He has chosen for me. So though I have been called to the noble position I am no greater than those who will fall under my leadership.)

Further more I do not feel that it is an insult to the other ministries for it to be known that they are not as important as the teaching of God's Word. It is simply how God has ordained it. Also, to some degree all are called to "the ministry". Not all will be pastors, elders, overseers, and bishops (which are all the same), but all are to be teachers of God's Word.

So I disagree with you on your stance that the calling of one to the position of church leadership is not called to "the ministry" because the Scripture shows that it is the most important of all ministries for by it is the only means of salvation.

Kyle said...

Thanks for that, Naak. I appreciate your reasonableness and civility. ;0)

I do hear you that your assessment of ministries is not about "ego-stroking," and I'm happy to take that for granted.

Especially in light of Paul's words about the unity of the Body in 1 Cor 12, it seems to me that any "ranking" of gifts and offices in the Church is out of bounds. Perhaps I've overlooked some things, but is it expressed in Scripture that "proclamation of the Word," is a more noble calling or ought to be more highly esteemed than others?

Again, I may have overlooked some scriptural statements that I need to read and reflect upon in my thinking, but it does seem to me that such language is more exalted than what the Scriptures would use. If that is the case, I ask what's going on in our ecclesial culture that we would be talking that way?

And while it's a little cheeky to put it this way, we've got to remember that it's the ministry of Jesus, and the whole ministry of the Holy Trinity and the Church that is the means of salvation. We are not asked, nor are we meant, to do with one and not all of the others.

And as a side point, I don't like to fully equate the congregational office of teaching Scripture with evangelism, though both could be considered as "the ministry of the Word." Our view of evangelism becomes skewed when we think that only exists in a pulpit and in the elected officers or ordained leadership of the Church. But perhaps that is another topic altogether...!

Thanks, man, I hope you're having a blessed Advent.

naak said...

Okay, after doing a little reading of the Scripture I find that to some degree I am in error. First, the Scripture does not say that "the ministry of the Word" (in context to elders or evangelist) is a nobler ministry, but it does say that the office of elder is a good work. We can look at the ministries of past and we will see that the greatest ones are those lead by men who faithfully taught God's word, whether through the pulpit or in the streets. I find that the purpose of all men and women then is to be professors of the faith and the different gifts we have simply change the means in which we do that.

So, Secondly, I find that there are those who are called to “the ministry.” Those being all who have been chosen by God and have been gifted by the Spirit are all called to “the ministry” of Jesus Christ. So as to refer to one office as “the” is most likely improper.

Kyle said...

Cheers, man. A good ministry, but not a "better" ministry as such. Keep reading and writing, and we'll continue to sort out all kinds of things.

Anonymous said...

Kyle I agree. I think for too long we have, either directly or indirectly, done a great damage to the notion of the ministry of all beleivers by insinuating that those who are really called to specific ministries, such as word and sacrament are the only ones called.

If we claim to be followers of Jesus, then whether ours is a pulpit or a prison, we are all called to actively serve the God we claim to follow.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Hope you had a great Christmas,